May 12, New Delhi: With almost 173 people defecating in the open for every square kilometer, India has the highest number of people without access to sanitation. The resulting health crisis is a serious matter as more than 140,000 children younger than five years die each year in India from diarrhoea.
To give a small sense of what life is like for the 560 million people in India defecating in the open, WaterAid India along with Bhartiya Grameen Mahila Sangh (BGMS) unveiled a special toilet called ‘Loo With A View’ whose door has a one-way mirror through which the person inside can see outside but for a person outside, the door appears as a mirror and they’re unable to see in.
H.H. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of the Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh and Co-Founder of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) while unveiling the toilet said:
“People keep complaining that we want to feel fresh and free. WaterAid has found the solution. In this toilet, you can see the world around. This is a brilliant idea and is going to work definitely. We should put up ‘loo with a view’ in every school and let children pass on the message to their families and friends.
We should all collaborate and take this idea forward. I really admire WaterAid’s team for their dedication, and commitment to the cause. To me this is meditation. Meditation and sanitation should go together.”
Simhastha Kumbh in Ujjain is one of the largest gatherings of people in the world with over 5 crore people expected to attend the Mela over the month. Given the huge influx of people over a relatively short period of time, it is a challenge to ensure that safe water, sanitation and hygiene services are made available for all the visiting pilgrims. A key concern is the possible prevalence of open defecation if the toilets provided are not sufficient to cater to the demand and possible lack of awareness on maintaining adequate hygiene to prevent outbreak of any diseases. The toilets are located next to the WaterAid India stall in the Datta Akhara zone of Ujjain’s Mela area.
Avinash Kumar, Director of Programmes & Policy at WaterAid India said:
“WaterAid India partnered with the Mela Organising Committee with the support of Ujjain Municipal Corporation and the Madhya Pradesh (MP) state government to ensure that water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is a priority at the Simhastha 2016 through a range of interventions. This is part of our larger efforts towards making Ujjain open defecation free by 2019.
‘Loo With A View’ is a light-hearted way of raising awareness about a critical issue wherein about half of the population in India does not have a choice and has to go out for open defecation. The toilet, we hope, will provide a brief experience of the lives of those who have nowhere safe to go to the toilet and often suffer indignity or embarrassment or even the fear of being attacked.”
In addition, WaterAid India has installed a bio-digester toilet technology at a community toilet complex in the Dani Gate area in Ujjain. Until now, the community toilet was using septic tank technology and could overflow due to high usage. Since the toilet complex is very close to the river Kshipra, bio-digester toilet technology was felt to be the ideal option as the effluent is much cleaner.
WaterAid India has also set up a stall, canopies, big balloons flying over community toilet complexes as toilet guideposts and display walls at various points in the Mela area through which volunteers along with a street theatre group is engaging the visiting pilgrims to disseminate information on various aspects of water, sanitation and hygiene and why they are essential for a healthier and more sustainable world.